Friday, October 14, 2005

17] Notes on the Precondition of a Peaceful World Order

ON PEACE, PERSONACRACY, AND THE UN AGENDA: NOTES ON THE PRECONDITIONS OF A PEACEFUL WORLD ORDER By Azly Abdul Rahman, Columbia University New York Know thyself know thy enemies, one hundred battles one hundred victories -Sun Zi, The Art of War A view from the highlands of decision making at the UN concerning the call for a peaceful world order can best be illustrated by that of an agenda for peace in which Boutros-Ghali (1992) described UN as a world council promoting “preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, and peacekeeping”. It recapitulates the historical mission of the world body in an anticipatory approach towards peace-building after being given the “breathing ground”, by the Cold War of the 1980s. Boutros-Ghali, at the end of the report wrote of UN’s role in preventing wars: Tasks ahead must engage the energy and attention of all components of the United Nations system – the General Assembly and other principle organs, the agencies and programs. Each has, in a balanced scheme of things, a role and a responsibility. (p.45) In arriving at the UN’s mission statement on peace-building, Boutros-Ghali acknowledged the complexity of the definition of peace itself and draw out the paradox of the effort in which, whilst arms reductions agreements are in progress, “conventional arms continue to be amassed in many parts of the world” (p.6). The report of the Commission on Global Governance (1992) illustrate an alarming disparity between the cost of preparing for peace (US$ 1.9 billion) to that of preparing for war (US$ 815 billion). Such a perplexity in the inquiry into governmental conducts in modern-day global politics mirror the inherent contradictions within the UN’s operational framework as a promoter of peace education. I relate such a condition within the discussions of peace, personacracy, and the UN agenda. I coin the term personacracy to mean “government of the self, for the self, and by the self” as opposed to the oftentimes bewildering and propagandized term “democracy” (“government of the people, By the people and for the people”) There is a creative –anarchistic, bordering into the metaphysical realm of human existence, highly personalized, and self -reflective connotation to personacracy as I mean it to be I differentiating it with the marriage of “demos” and “kratos”. It resides in the domain of spiritual tradition characteristic of Platonism and inherent in the metaphysical epistemology of the major religious traditions. Personacracy is such an existential tradition thrushed into the modern world of chaos and complexity, and especially relevant to the discussion on the state of the troubled world, it can emerge as a philosophical outlook in approaching peace education. Before venturing into the main theme of personacracy, I quote Boutros-Ghali 1992) on how peace should begin: Peace at home and the urgency of rebuilding and strengthening our individual societies necessitates peace abroad and cooperation among nations. The endeavors of the United Nations will require the fullest engagement of all of its members large and small if the present renewed opportunity is to be seized. (p.46) What is peace? Where does it reside? What is the condition like to be at peace? Is peace and ultimate goal of existence? Or is it a process? Or is it a dream? Civilizations have their discontents and the birth of the UN was prophetic to deal with them. Whilst it has existed for half a century, the UN has merely managed to conceptualize an agenda for peace. From 1945 to the present, wars continue to be fought culminating in the “Third World War” aptly known as the “Cold War”. There seem to be a logic to the inability of the powerful nations to contain their tendency to hegemonize in that, if we analyze the periods of “explosions” in the “peace containers” of the Superpowers, we could see that it took about thirty five to forty year intervals between all the World wars (World war I in 1914, World war II in 1945, and World war III in the 1980s). Although there is the existence of the United Nations, can we predict another inevitability as such before the first quarter of the next millineum? If the UN has not been admiringly successful in containing the advancement of Third World militarism and perhaps too, the renewed tendencies of the G7 states to build better and bigger military-industrial complexes, how could we conceptualize “everlasting peace” much awaited by the religiously-inclined , in the prophetic land of “The Kingdom of God”? The world may still be far away from being in a satisfactory degree of confidence in the area of peace and security. The UN, as a world governance, albeit its visibility in the arena of world politics in which the only permanent thing is changes and the constant states of revolutions and counter-revolutions, still remains an outsider to a large extent. Weiss, (1994) analyzed this dilemma of the UN with reference to the war between Iraq and “the rest of the world”: Paradoxically, the Persian Gulf War represented the first military enforcement action of the post Cold War era, but the UN Secretary general and the secretariat remained virtual outsiders to the process by which the war was waged. (p.96) And whilst the Gulf War brought enormous amounts of profits to major defense contractors in the name of “making the world safer for democracy,” and containing “terrorist states”, it has brought about a cataclysmic effect to non-governmental segments of the world. As reported by the Commission on Global Governance (1995): Militarization today not only involves governments spending more than necessary to build up their military arsenals. It has increasingly become a global societal phenomena, as witnessed by the rampant acquisition and use of increasingly lethal weapons by civilians … . (p.131) And whilst discussions on the paradox of the UN as peace educator can be continued in the paragraphs of this reflective notes, we can fall back onto Hope and our own personacratic action in achieving the vision of a just and peaceful world order -- if not in our lifetime, in that of our children. The financial burden the UN is plunged into on its fiftieth anniversary (UNDPI, 1997) reflect a difficult crossroad “we the peoples” are at; whether the UN can continue to prolong. Or to perish. The view that “we the peoples “ can perhaps no longer trust governments to contribute financially and faithfully to the goals of the UN seem to be all the more attractive for global grassroots participation to prevail; those which will transcend national, ideological, communal, religious, and other known boundaries. Education and the cultivation of the global peaceful self in this age of trade blocks and intense financial wars, can begin with one taking the path of understanding personacracy. The condition of a peaceful world order must begin, not only in the family as a vital unit, but more closely with oneself. It must begin with the education of our youth and perhaps much earlier. The idea of personacracy , the ability to govern oneself through deep reflection of the wonders of existentialism within the context of one’s own religious, cultural, and ideological belief towards harmony, peace and love, can best be illustrated by the Director-General of UNESCO who talked about educating our youth: Peace is not an abstract idea but one rooted firmly in cultural, political, social, and economic contexts. … Above all, this profound transformation from oppression and confinement to openness and generosity cannot be achieved without our young people. We must tell them that they must discover the answers, that the motivations and glimpses of light that they are seeking can be found within themselves. (p. 10) The contentious statement above can remind us of the futility of leaving politics only to the politicians and political economy merely to university professors. As Jean-Paul Sartre reminded us to become committed intellectuals who will mediate the contradictions within the capitalist system and and to explain them to the masses and so that , like Sisyphus in Albert Camus’ myth, we should all know what kind of rock to roll, when to roll, and remain happy and at peace, we must all become futurists. I quote Mische (1994) on becoming committed: Decisions are made now that will shape the norms, policies, and systems that govern the world far into the 21st. century. …, we cannot leave these decisions to only a few countries. We cannot leave them to governments alone. All sectors of our emerging global community need to be actively involved as full partners in shaping our common future. (p. 2) Whilst I shall reserve the key elements and components of the idea of personacracy for a later discussion which will be juxtaposed with the educational framework I will be proposing, I end these notes on the preconditions of a peaceful world order with the assertion that the major tenet of personacracy is the notion that the world within is larger and much beautiful than the world outside and it is through learning to evolve as human beings that we can attain the meaning of peace and to transform oneself and others in the process. In the words of Maxine Greene (1978): We may be, objectively, nothing more than a ‘quintessence of dust’. But we can choose, and we can sometimes transform. (p.20) BIBLIOGRAPHY Boutros-Ghali, B., (1992). An agenda for Peace: preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping . New York: United Nations. Commission on Global Governance (1995). Our global neighborhood. The report of. the commission on global governance. New York: Oxford University Press. Greene, M., (1978). Landscapes of learning. New York: Teachers College Press. Message from the director-general: the human rights to peace. (February 20, 1997). UNESCO News, 4, 1, 10. Mische, P., (1994, Fall) editorial. In P. Mische and D. Douglas (Eds.). Breakthrough News, Fall. United Nations Department of Public Information (1997). Setting the record straight: Facts about the United Nations (UNDPI Publication No.DPI/1848/Rev.3—August—97-21928---7M New York: UNDPI. Weiss, T. G., Forsythe, D. P., & Coate, R. A. (1994). The United Nations and changing world politics. Colorado:Westview Press.

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AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of nine books on Malaysia and Global Affairs. He grew up in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. Twitter @azlyrahman.